by Michael K. Smith
Unlike in most of the rest of the world, journalists and editors in the U.S. corporate media are consumed by fantasy when it comes to anything having to do with Israel, especially its appalling treatment of Palestinians. In their eyes, the worst the Holy State can ever be guilty of is tactical error, not criminal brutality, and there is no deed too bloodthirsty to sanitize for their American readers.
Consider Israel's recent mass murder of peace activists in international waters. While the rest of the world recoiled in shocked outrage at the news, the New York Times smeared the victims by editorializing ("Israel and the Blockade," New York Times, June 1) that Free Gaza activists "had more than humanitarian intentions" (emphasis added) in trying to deliver humanitarian supplies to besieged Gazans. The group "made its motives clear" in advance, said the Times' editors, by stating that, "A violent response from Israel will breathe new life into the Palestine solidarity movement, drawing attention to the blockade." The inference is that the Free Gaza activists wanted a violent response from Israel in order to promote themselves and discredit the blockade.
As usual with the Times, there is no compelling logic linking the premise to the conclusion. The Free Gaza activists might just as well have been attempting to deter an attack on their members by pointing out to Israel the unpleasant consequences it could expect if it were to resort to violence, but the Times' editors are so blindly devoted to apologetics for the Holy State that they can't see the obvious.
To them, Israel is not guilty of piracy and mass murder, but of having "completely mishandled the incident" - a tactical blunder. The attack on the Mari Marmara "left nine activists dead" (but not murdered), and "opened Israel to a torrent of criticism," the latter being the more important consideration.
Incredibly, the Times' editors characterize the mass murder as a "grievous, self-inflicted wound," as though the Israeli commandos had turned their guns on themselves. The lives of the dead activists do not count, except insofar as they cause bad publicity for Israel. The important considerations are that the killings have "damaged Israel's ties with Turkey . . . given the Hamas-led government in Gaza a huge propaganda boost; and complicated peace talks with the Palestinian Authority." They have also "made it much tougher for the Obama administration to persuade the United Nations Security Council to put new sanctions on Iran's nuclear program," which is a "top priority" for Israel.
For these reasons, and not because it is a crime to shoot passengers in international waters after forcibly boarding their ship, the "Israeli attack was unacceptable."
The Washington Post's David Ignatius likewise accused Israel of an error, not a crime. Ignatius wrote ("Flotilla Raid Offers Israel a Learning Opportunity, Washington Post, June 2") that Israel's killings were well-intentioned because they were part of "an effort to enforce their blockade on the Gaza Strip and thereby weaken the grip of the extremist Hamas movement there." Unfortunately, the noble raid "backfired," causing Israel otherwise avoidable bad publicity. The subtext is that carrying out mass murder against Gazans via blockade is legitimate, but murdering activists on the high seas who act in solidarity with them is a tactical mistake.
For Ignatius the situation in Gaza is "infuriating," but not for Gazans, rather for Israel! This is because Israel (1) "is combating a terrorist adversary in Gaza;" (2)"its friends in Europe and the United States are increasingly unreliable"; (3) "its key Muslim ally, Turkey, is buddying up with Iran"; (4) "and the Turkish organizers of the Gaza relief mission have links with the Israel haters in Hamas."
In short, Hamas and Iran are evil, the Free Gaza Movement is linked to evil, and Israel has no choice but to defeat evil by murdering as many Gazans and solidarity activists as it deems necessary. As a fairy tale, this would be too embarrassing to read to a kindergarten class; as editorial commentary it is beyond ridiculous.
Translating to standard English, Ignatius finds the situation in Gaza infuriating because (1) Hamas responds to Israel's wholesale terror with retail terror (i.e., it commits violent acts on a far smaller scale) (2) Israel's revolting barbarity is costing it what few allies it has, turning it into a pariah state (3) Turkey is moving closer to Iran, which is terrible, because Iran is independent of Zionist control (4) Turkish activists refuse to let Israel determine who they interact with in their efforts to liberate Gaza.
It is difficult to see what is terrible about any of this, since all of the stated concerns would evaporate overnight if Israel ceased stealing land and murdering the people to whom it belongs.
In any event, Ignatius goes on to warn that "the Gaza blockade is not sustainable," though if it were, the starvation and misery it produces would be tolerable, if not laudable. He also states, oddly, that the solidarity activists on the Gaza flotilla were armed with cellphones and video cameras, consumer items that are not ordinarily considered weapons. He concludes by framing the issue of the Gaza blockade, not as a quest for justice - heaven forbid - but as a search for "the right diplomatic formula," a technical gimmick that can somehow resolve "the Gaza mess," which Ignatius suggests should be thrown in the lap of the U.N. (while Israel continues colonizing the West Bank).
Meanwhile, the Post's editors declare they have "no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla" ("The flotilla fiasco," Washington Post, June 1), while finding Israel's murder of the solidarity activists to be merely "misguided and badly executed," not criminal. The Free Gaza activists are owed no sympathy because their declared humanitarian aims were "secondary to the aim of provoking a confrontation," the evidence being that "the flotilla turned down an Israeli offer to unload the six boats and deliver the goods to Gaza by truck." Furthermore, they "ignored repeated warnings that [they] would not be allowed to reach Gaza."
It is always difficult to know how best to respond to impenetrable denseness. Just why solidarity workers eager to get humanitarian relief supplies to the people of Gaza would entrust delivery to the government that celebrates the slow starvation it has inflicted on them for years now is somewhat less than crystal clear. As for ignoring Israeli threats to prevent the boats from arriving in Gaza, since when do pirates have the right to invent new law? Not only do the Post's editors not have sympathy for Free Gaza's solidarity activists, they have no sympathy for the law. For them, Israel is the law.
The Wall Street Journal, true to form, proved itself even more deluded than the "liberal" press, announcing without shame that "food, medicine, and electricity continue to flow to Gaza," so there is no problem of deprivation ("Israel's Gaza Choices," Wall Street Journal, June 1) Of course, food, medicine, and electricity continue to flow to the people of Cuba as well, so the Journal's editors should be prepared to concede that Communist rule is no obstacle to the fulfillment of economic aspirations on the island. Don't hold your breath.
The Journal's editors also immediately side with Israel's version of events about what transpired on the morning of the commando raid, insisting that "the humanitarians aboard the ship assaulted the commandos with clubs and knives," not mentioning the fact that this claim is very much in dispute. Nor do they offer any explanation as to why Israel is not to be condemned for forcibly boarding ships in international waters, which the law does not permit.
In a show of false generosity the editors "suppose [that] Israel could have allowed the flotilla to pass to avoid the political fallout it is now enduring," but not to spare innocent lives that it chose to cruelly snuff out. Once again, the problem posed concerns the practical difficulties Israel is experiencing as a result of its murderous behavior, not the loss of life and limb by those who seek to make the Jewish state obey the law. The latter are apparently too trivial to merit attention.
The Journal's editors speculate that allowing humanitarian aid to go through "would have merely created a channel through which Hamas could be supplied with ever more advanced weaponry (much of it courtesy of Iran), thus setting the stage for an even bloodier future war in Gaza." Of course, this is sheer fantasy, as no evidence has been produced to demonstrate that the Free Gaza Movement has any such intention, nor that port authorities in Cyprus and Greece would permit arms smuggling if they did. In any case, on the pretext of avoiding a future war anything can be rationalized - like dropping an atomic bomb on Washington D.C., which would surely prevent a lot of future wars.
Killing people in the present in order to avoid having to kill even more people in the always hypothetical future is sheer insanity. Nobody knows what the future will bring, but everyone knows that sanctioning lawless behavior is a recipe for permanent disaster.
Israel and its lapdog in Washington are that permanent disaster. It is high time that the American people took note of it, and put an end to the relentless exploitation of the Palestinian people, who have done nothing to merit the boundless contempt with which they are treated.
-----Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire" and "The Madness of King George," both from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org